The Ford F-150 Lightning — Ford’s Electric Pickup Truck Entry!

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The electric Ford F-150 is coming, and we have all the details! Well, no, not really, but we do have a name!

The vehicle will be called the Ford F-150 Lightning. Good choice, Ford, good choice. Frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t had a Lightning on the market yet. But maybe I’m biased, being from the lightning capital of the world and all.

We will get more info about the Ford F-150 Lightning next week, on May 19. What we get for now, aside from the exciting name, is some marketing lingo: “The F-150 Lightning brings stunning innovation, technologies and capabilities to the F-Series, America’s best-selling vehicle, combined with the power, payload and towing capability that is the hallmark of all Built Ford Tough trucks.”

Interestingly, Ford went out there and gave a nod to Tesla (and Toyota) in its brief announcement about the name and the coming announcement. Clearly, it’s utilizing a “let’s all be friends” approach here (which I thoroughly condone), is showing that it can acknowledge reality (always a good sign), and is trying to position the electric F-150 at the top of the mountain from day 0.

“Every so often, a new vehicle comes along that disrupts the status quo and changes the game … Model T, Mustang, Prius, Model 3. Now comes the F-150 Lightning,” said Ford President and CEO Jim Farley. “America’s favorite vehicle for nearly half a century is going digital and fully electric. F-150 Lightning can power your home during an outage; it’s even quicker than the original F-150 Lightning performance truck; and it will constantly improve through over-the-air updates.”

That’s quite an intro. Will guys and gals go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs the electric version of the top selling vehicle in the USA (and sometimes the world)? Jim Farley may be the cousin of the late, great, deeply missed Chris Farley (it’s crazy how much his energy, heart, and humor is still palpable today), but he seems to be dead serious. As far as I can tell, Farley is firmly behind his electric Team Edison crew that has been working to pull forward into the electric era much more quickly in the 2020s. But don’t take my word for it. This is what Ford has planned for the reveal: while it will happen at Ford World Headquarters, it “will be broadcast live with 30+ ways to watch across physical and digital destinations, including the Ford Facebook and YouTube channels, Twitter, key national publications as well as 18 impactful out-of-home locations such as Times Square in New York City and Las Vegas Boulevard.”

Sounds like Ford is ready for a show and wants a big launch for its electric breadwinner.

Ford F-150 Lightning production is supposed to begin in the spring of 2022. “The truck of the future will be built with quality and a commitment to sustainability by Ford-UAW workers at the Ford Rouge Complex — the cathedral of American manufacturing and our most advanced plant,” Farley added. This is a somewhat faster timeline than we had before. We wrote in September 2020 that production was supposed to begin in the middle of 2022. Kudos to Ford for accelerating the timeline! (Notably, that is around the same time that Tesla Cybertruck delivers will begin.) Update: Ford has reconfirmed the mid-2022 timeline. I guess we’re just talking late spring.

At that time, following some clarification from Ford, we also got word that the F-150 Lightning is expected to have significantly lower total cost of operation (but not necessarily ownership — which implies the upfront price won’t be very low) for the F-150 Lightning compared to a conventional fossil-powered F-150. We’ll be sure to crunch some numbers once we have them and put out various cost of ownership forecasts.

As Kyle Field also wrote at the time, “The electric F-150 is primed to change the game when it comes to uptime. Electric vehicles almost universally require less maintenance than combustion vehicles. With nearly 100 times fewer moving parts in the powertrain, they are more reliable and deliver savings over the long haul. No oil changes, no air filters, no transmission rebuilds, and the like. On top of that, electric vehicles can charge up at a fleet depot overnight, saving fleet managers valuable runtime since employees won’t have to spend the first or last part of the day refueling the truck.” And Farley said back then, “This truck has been tested and tortured to be Ford tough like you wouldn’t believe.”

There are one to three big remaining questions. The core one is: how many is Ford prepared to produce? If Ford is aiming to produce this vehicle in high volume, then price can come down (thanks, economies of scale) and driving range should be plenty adequate. However, if we are talking limited production, the reasons may be that Ford can’t get a good supply of cheap batteries (EV sales are booming globally) or doesn’t have its heart in this quite enough. Or perhaps it’s concerned what the customer response will be to a fully electric Ford F-150. Let’s hope that Ford has a boatload (or 1000 boatloads) of batteries lined up, has a plan to scale up production capacity to a significant level, has its aerodynamics down to give the vehicle good range, has the tech moving along nicely, and is ready to compete at high volumes in the electric vehicle market.

Naturally, though, I’m skeptical. As much as I love the new Ford Mustang Mach-E, its US sales target for 2021 is reportedly just 20,000 (with another 30,000 headed to Europe to meet regulatory requirements there), and it’s not clear if Ford has plans in place to aim much higher in 2022 and beyond (my dream would be at least 100,000 Mustang Mach-E sales a year.)

An electric pickup truck a whole other beast to electrify, presenting both plenty of challenges and plenty of opportunities. It looks like Ford is eagerly jumping on the opportunities, which is a good sign for the EV market, Ford, and the world (aka humanity). However, the giant elephant in the room that may or may not want to sit in the back of that F-150 Lightning is whether Ford has the motivation and battery contracts lined up to make the F-150 Lightning a serious competitor to the fossil-focused F-150 that should be fossilized by 2030.


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